The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Thursday that the card game bridge cannot be considered a sport and is therefore subject to value-added tax (VAT) in Britain.
The English Bridge Union (EBU), a national body responsible for regulating and developing the game, had argued that fees collected at tournaments and from players should be VAT-exempted, because the activities were closely linked to sport or physical education, citing an EU directive letting governments waive VAT on some services.
Britain's Commissioners for Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) however argued that sport must have a significant physical element, and therefore the tax break was not applicable.
The court found that in the "context of VAT exemptions," the concept of sport was limited to activities "characterized by a not negligible physical element," according to a statement.
The ECJ acknowledged however that "bridge involves logic, memory and planning, and may constitute an activity beneficial to the mental and physical health."
The ECJ, however, left a possible opening for British bridge fiends to exploit. "Cultural activities" can also apply for VAT exemptions, they said, if their practice, history and traditions are part of the "social and cultural heritage of the country."